Comic Book History of Beer

Comic books have become mainstream, even for those over 21. That trend inspired three men—illustrator Aaron McConnell, writer Jonathan Hennessey, and professional brewer Mike Smith—to write The Comic Book Story of Beer.

This 173-page book covers 9,000 years from the beginnings of agriculture—necessitated by brewing, they maintain—and explains the economic, cultural, and scientific facets of beer. There are factoids you might not know, such as covered beer steins were invented during the Black Death, when piles of bodies on the streets attracted flies, or that the Vienna Lager style of beer was born out of a 19th-century act of industrial espionage.

Although the authors want to educate their readers, they also want the learning to be fun. They use little Lego men breaking things apart to explain how enzymes break up sugar molecules and little “yeast-bots” to depict fermentation, and their depiction of the malt-roasting process is based on a story by Dr. Seuss.

The Comic Book Story of Beer will be available next month.

The Friday Mash (Very Endangered Species Edition)

On this day in 1844, the last two known great auks were killed. These large flightless penguin-like birds, which lived in the North Atlantic, were hunted to extinction because their down was in high demand in Europe.

And on that auk-ward note…The Mash!

We begin in China, where designer Li Rongjun has built an office out of 8,500 empty beer bottles. Rongjun has a degree in construction from the Inner Mongolia University of Science & Technology.

Lagunitas Brewing Company will build a third brewery in Asuza, California. The new plant, with a projected capacity of more than 400,000 barrels a year, is expected to open in early 2017.

Molson’s Beer Fridge will make an appearance at this month’s Pan-American Games in Toronto. The latest edition will dispense a free Molson to those who say “I Am Canadian” in any of 40 languages.

Anita Brown, an artist in Los Angeles, has designed beers for each of the books in the Harry Potter series. They include Pilsner of Azkaban, Amber of Secrets, and Deathly Hops (h/t Jay Brooks).

Queen is the latest rock group to release its own beer. It’s a pilsner that will be called—what else?—Bohemian Rhapsody. The bottle’s design features a crest designed by Freddie Mercury himself while he was in college.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria has pulled a custom-brewed batch of ale from Chicago’s Trump Tower in protest of Donald Trump’s comments about Mexico. 5 Rabbit’s founder, is a native of Costa Rica.

Finally, New Orleans is rarely associated with German culture, but Tchoupitoulas Beer Garden, a year-round, Oktoberfest-inspired beer hall, will open this summer in the city’s Warehouse District.

Fun With Numbers

British beer writer Martyn Cornell has written a new book, A Craft Beer Road Trip Around Britain, with snapshots of 40 of Britain’s top small breweries. His interviews of the brewers at these establishments resulted in ssome interesting statistics. Cornell cautions that with a sample size this small, these should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Eight percent of the brewers had a Ph.D.
  • 40 percent have a home brewing background, a number that strikes Cornell as low.
  • 35 percent wore black T-shirts or polo shirts bearing their brewery’s logo. Jeans and industrial boots complete the uniform.
  • 48 per cent have beards. However, their beards aren’t as bushy as those of their American counterparts.
  • 45 percent use Cascade hops in at least one of their beers.
  • 30 percent use Maris Otter barley.
  • “Farm” appears in the name of 12 percent of their breweries.
  • Eight percent of the craft breweries are based in railway arches.
  • Five percent of breweries have artistic graffiti all over their interior walls.
  • Did the Pilgrims Really Run Out of Beer?

    You’ve seen this quote from the log of the Mayflower. We’ve even featured it in our “Worts of Wisdom”: “For we could not now take time for further search our victuals being pretty much spent especially our beer.”

    Bob Skilnik, a Chicago-based beer historian, found more to the story while researching his book: Beer & Food: An American History. The Mayflower log said that the next day, the Pilgrims went back ashore and decided what we now call Plymouth was a suitable place: it was on high ground, much of the land had been cleared, and fresh water was available.

    Skilnik explains that in 1935, sales of re-legalized beer were flagging. The brewing industry reacted by putting their beer in take-home containers—and by appealing to patriotism and nostalgia. The strategy worked, even at the expense of history.

    The Friday Mash (GW Bridge Edition)

    On this day in 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened to traffic. This double-decker span over the Hudson River connects Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey–a town now famous thanks to “Bridgegate.”

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Kansas City, where Boulevard Brewing Company will kick off its 25th anniversary celebration with the release of a special ale brewed in collaboration with Odell Brewing Company.

    Chef David Chang made enemies thanks to a GQ magazine article declaring his hatred of “fancy beer”. Chang contends that craft beer has too intense a flavor to pair with his food.

    Two hundred years ago, in London, eight women and children were killed by a flood of beer caused by an explosion at the Henry Meux & Company brewery. The disaster was ruled an “act of God.”

    Why not turn your Halloween jack-o-lantern into a beer keg? All you need is a carving knife, a pumpkin carving kit, a Sharpie, a spigot, and beer—which need not be pumpkin beer.

    William Bostwick, the Wall Street Journal’s beer critic, has written a book titled The Brewer’s Tale. In her review, Amy Stewart calls Bostwick “the very best sort of literary drinking buddy.”

    In Papua New Guinea, which suffers 1.8 million cases of malaria every year, a brewery packs its beer in a box that contains eucalyptus, a natural mosquito repellent.

    Finally, should the Great American Beer Festival give medals for best beer puns? CraftBeer.com’s Atalie Rhodes found these doozies on the list of medal winners. Our favorite is “Dubbel Entendre.”

    Beer in the Carolinas

    Daniel Hartis, who lives in Charlotte, is the author of Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City and the recently-published Beer Lover’s The Carolinas. Last week, he talked beer with fellow blogger Jim Dedman. Hartis credits the grass-roots Pop the Cap movement in North Carolina, which successfully lobbied state lawmakers to lift the 6-percent ABV limit, for the growth of craft beer in that state. Later, South Carolina passed similar legislation, and amended its liquor code to allow breweries to serve pints.

    The author admits that his first experience with craft beer didn’t go so well. When he moved to Asheville to go to college, he asked the server at a pizzeria to bring him a pint of the establishment’s most popular beer. It was, of course, an IPA. He said, “I’d like to tell you it opened up a whole new world for me, but I thought it was disgusting and abrasively bitter.”

    Hartis also said that breweries and beer bars are opening so fast in the Carolinas that he’s already thinking of a second edition of the book. It might hit the shelves as early as a couple of years from now.

    The Friday Mash (King Ludwig Edition)

    On this day in 1886, King Ludwig II of Bavaria passed away. Please join our beer-drinking lion in a moment of silence for the “Mad King” who, among other things, commissioned the fantastic Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the area’s leading tourist attractions.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Petaluma, California, where Lagunitas Brewing Company held its annual Beer Circus. Some guests wore top hats and “ironic facial hair,” while others dressed as figures from popular culture.

    Just in time for Father’s Day: Criquet, a clothing company, has designed a shirt with a reinforced lining that prevents you from destroying it while using the shirttail to twist a beer bottle open.

    Twenty years ago, Lauren Clark quit her desk job to work for a brewery. She then gravitated to writing, and recently published Crafty Bastards, a history of beer in New England.

    Gustav Holst’s The Planets inspired Bell’s Brewing to create a seven-ale series, each of which named for one of the planets in Holst’s suite. The first Planet beer will be released in August.

    St. Louis, which is celebrating its 250th birthday, has 30 craft breweries–and yes, the Budweiser brewery, too. USA Today’s Wendy Pramick has a beer lover’s guide to the city.

    Brock Bristow, a South Carolina attorney, might wind up in the Lobbyists’ Hall of Fame. He persuaded lawmakers to pass the brewery-friendly “Stone Bill”.

    Finally, Jeopardy! for beer geeks. Three female beer bloggers host a monthly trivia night at a bar in Brooklyn. Games consist of four rounds: brewing, history, popular culture, and the “hipster trifecta.”

    The Friday Mash (B&O Railroad Edition)

    On this day in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated. Can you name the other railroads on the Monopoly board? Time’s up. They’re the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading Railroad, and the Short Line.

    All aboard!

    We begin in Brazil, where the Polar brewery has an invention that will make it easier to converse in bars. It’s a beer cooler that cuts out GSM, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, and 4G signals.

    California’s drought could make your Lagunitas IPA will taste different. The Russian River, which provides Lagunitas with its water, is drying up, and brewery might have to find another source.

    Beer was the headline ingredient in last Sunday’s “Chopped” competition on the Food Network. The show, with Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch as a judge, airs again on Sunday evening.

    Higher zymurgical education awaits in the form of Joshua Bernstein’s new book, The Complete Beer Course. It contains a series of “classes” devoted to families of beers.

    On Tuesday, when he was in Chicago to announce the award of a federal manufacturing grant, President Obama put in a plug for Goose Island Brewing Company’s “superior beer.”

    A Korean romantic comedy in which the female lead makes chimek to celebrate winter’s first snow has Chinese viewers clamoring for the dish, which is Korean for “fried chicken” and “beer.”

    Finally, a gathering of 490 Yelp members at Santa Anita Race Track might set a new Guinness record for beer tasters. We hope they bet on Ambitious Brew, who won the $100,000 Sensational Star stakes race.

    California’s Brewers Cope With Drought

    California is suffering one of the worst droughts in memory and, as Claire Leschin-Hoar of Voice of San Diego explains, the state’s craft brewing industry is feeling the effects. Brewers in the San Diego area are taking steps to conserve water in the beer-making process. The first step is finding out where it’s being wasted. The next is to find ways to use less water and to re-use it–for example, by using reverse osmosis to purify wastewater.

    It takes more than three gallons of water to make one gallon of beer, and even more at small breweries which can’t take advantage of economies of scale. However, other beverages have much bigger “water footprints.” It takes 880 gallons of water to make one gallon of milk or one gallon of coffee, and 1,008 gallons of water to make a gallon of wine.

    Gifts for the Beer Lover

    Here’s are some interesting gift ideas for the beer lover on your list. Dave Selden, a native of Portland, Oregon, created a “33 Bottles of Beer” book that can be used as a handy way to record tasting notes with one hand while drinking beer with the other. All one has to do is pull out a pencil and fill in a blank flavor wheel for each beer tasted. Selden also has “33″ tasting books for other products, including wine, whiskey, cheese, or even hot sauce. And recently, he’s debuted the “United States of Beer,” a 39-inch-by-25-inch map of the U.S. with the same fill-in-the-dots format as “33 Bottles.” And yes, all 50 states can be found on the map.

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